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Cultural Capital - How to get this right. (cert-4-£1)

Updated: May 15, 2021

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What is Cultural Capital?

The new Ofsted Early Years Inspection Framework (Sep 19) introduced the term “Cultural Capital”.

The framework states:

“Cultural capital is the essential knowledge that children need to prepare them for their future success. It is about giving children the best possible start to their early education. As part of making a judgment about the quality of education, inspectors will consider how well leaders use the curriculum to enhance the experience and opportunities available to children, particularly the most disadvantaged […]

The framework goes on to state:

“Some children arrive at an early years setting with different experiences from others, in their learning and play. What a setting does, through the EYFS curriculum and interactions with practitioners potentially makes all the difference to children. It is the role of the setting to help the children experience the awe and wonder of the world in which they live, through the seven areas of learning”.

Following the announcement of the new framework, there was a real wave of insecurity within the early years community surrounding this “new” concept - “Cultural Capital” – a complex term that most of us would associate with deeper sociological study.

Put simply, cultural capital is about developing knowledge, skills and behaviours to succeed and get on in life.

What can we use as evidence that children’s cultural capital is being promoted?

We are often asked this question, with practitioners and leaders assuming they need to attend specific training on the topic and spend hours of their time researching its meaning.

Here’s the secret! - the essence of cultural capital already lies within the EYFS!

Rest assured– we do not need a sociology degree to be confident that we are already enhancing children’s cultural capital. All we need to do is continue to:

· Use our knowledge from regular observations of children.

· Work as key persons.

· Use what we know of the children’s home lives to develop children’s experiences and learning. (For example, If you know a child has limited access to outdoor play at home, provide them with opportunities to explore the outdoor environment at the setting.

· Ensure all children (especially the disadvantaged) have access to a wide range of experiences and opportunities.

The good news? - If we have already been demonstrating good practice within the EYFS, we will already be enhancing children's cultural capital!

What about the terms “Awe and Wonder” and “Effective Citizens?”

As part of “Cultural Capital” The EIF also states that we should:

· Help children experience the “Awe and Wonder” of the world in which they live


· provide children with the knowledge they need to be “Effective Citizens”.

Some more good news?- As long as we are demonstrating good practice within the EYFS, we will already be doing this too!

So let’s make sure that we feel confident to talk to the inspector about how we build activities around the children’s interests.

This may include:

· finding books on a child’s favourite topic

· creating role-play activities that further their interest in a particular idea

· exploring the local community

· or organising visits from community figures such as the fire service.

What is important is that we feel confident to explain why we have chosen a particular activity and how it will benefit the child’s learning and development.

Rather than looking for a hidden meaning in the phrase, practitioners should continue to focus on giving each child the best start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their full potential.

How Cultural Capital links to the EYFS

If you’re keen to have some more concrete examples, we’ve taken each aspect within the EYFS 7 areas of learning (something we are all very familiar with) and demonstrated how our everyday observations of the children will naturally and effortlessly provide evidence of cultural capital, including “awe and wonder” and “effective citizenship”.

Some areas such as Literacy and Understanding of the World lend themselves very nicely to cultural capital. This list is not exhaustive but demonstrates that we ARE enhancing cultural capital already - we just need the confidence to celebrate this with the inspector when the time comes!

Personal, social and emotional development:

Making relationships

Under 3s - Seeks to gain attention in a variety of ways, drawing others into social interaction.

Over 3s - Takes steps to resolve conflicts with other children, e.g. finding a compromise.

Self confidence and self awareness

Under 3s - Engages other person to help achieve a goal, e.g. to get an object out of reach.

Over 3s - Confident to speak to others about own needs, wants, interests and opinions.

Managing feelings and behaviour

Under 3s - Cooperates with caregiving experiences, e.g. dressing.

Over 3s - Understands that own actions affect other people, for example, becomes upset or tries to comfort another child when they realise they have upset them.


Communication and language:

Listening and attention

Under 3 s - Has a strong exploratory impulse.

Over 3s - Joins in with repeated refrains and anticipates key events and phrases in rhymes and stories.


Under 3s - Starts to understand contextual clues, e.g. familiar gestures, words and sounds.

Over 3s - Beginning to understand ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions.


Under 3s - Uses sounds in play, e.g. ‘brrrm’ for toy car.

Over 3s - Uses talk to connect ideas, explain what is happening and anticipate what might happen next, recall and relive past experiences.


Physical Development:

Moving and handling

Under 3s - Enjoys the sensory experience of making marks in damp sand, paste or paint.

Over 3s - Uses one-handed tools and equipment, e.g. makes snips in paper with child scissors.

Health and self care

Under 3s - Willing to try new food textures and tastes .

Over 3s - Eats a healthy range of foodstuffs and understands need for variety in food.




Under 3s - Interested in books and rhymes and may have favourites.

Over 3s - Uses vocabulary and forms of speech that are increasingly influenced by their experiences of books.


Under 3s - Early mark making using a variety of interesting materials .

Over 3s - Uses some clearly identifiable letters to communicate meaning, representing some sounds correctly and in sequence.




Under 3s - Develops an awareness of number names through their enjoyment of action rhymes and songs that relate to their experience of numbers.

Over 3s - Begins to identify own mathematical problems based on own interests and fascinations.

Shape, space and measure

Under 3s - Recognises big things and small things in meaningful contexts.

Over 3s - Shows interest in shapes in the environment.


Understanding of the world:

People and Communities

Under 3s - Enjoys pictures and stories about themselves, their families and other people.

Over 3s - Knows some of the things that make them unique, and can talk about some of the similarities and differences in relation to friends or family.

The world

Under 3s - Closely observes what animals, people and vehicles do.

Over 3s - Looks closely at similarities, differences, patterns and change.


Under 3s - Shows interest in toys with buttons, flaps and simple mechanisms and beginning to learn to operate them.

Over 3s - Shows an interest in technological toys with knobs or pulleys, or real objects such as cameras or mobile phones.


Expressive arts and design:

Exploring and using media and materials

Under 3s - Explores and experiments with a range of media through sensory exploration, and using whole body.

Over 3s - Explores the different sounds of instruments.

Being imaginative

Under 3s - Pretends that one object represents another, especially when objects have characteristics in common.

Over 3s - Captures experiences and responses with a range of media, such as music, dance and paint and other materials or words.


As we can see, there is no need to over-think cultural capital – it is the exciting and stimulating activities that we do with children every day!

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